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Sketch vs Photo - The 3 Battles  |   Ypres  |   Ypres - Part 2   |   Ypres - Part 3   |   The Somme   |   Vimy Ridge   |   Vimy Ridge - Part 2

Sketches vs. Photographs

Even allowing for age deterioration, this photograph gives little detail of the terrain at Shrapnell Ridge - click to enlargeThe sketch is of much greater use to a commanding officer than a photograph, as it highlights the features of relevance in a potential attack. Photographs, as official sources noted, were only of use in illustrating a small local area: ‘cameras will be found most useful for the illustration of local detail, but will be of little use for distant views’.i The photograph to the right, of Shrapnell Corner, Ypres, from Draycot’s personal photograph album, is an example. It would have been of little value in planning or executing an attack: the salient features of the landscape are not highlighted, and the sharpness of detail found in a sketch is missing. It serves as a memory jogger or a souvenir; as a practical document, however, it has very little value. Even allowing for age deterioration, this photograph gives little detail of the terrain.
Similarities between the memoir and sketches
Both media are narratives that use conventional devices such as words and symbols. And both adopt specific principles of organisation, including arrangement of information and techniques that are recognised by the reader/user. The memoir and sketches have a specific purpose, and both narratives can be revised in order to correct or add details. The military sketch not only re-creates the features of the landscape but also the preparations for and details of events that will take place or have already occurred. These details require the reader to make a concerted effort to understand the message. As already established, whereas the diary and photograph are slices of time and space which accept ‘now’ and which do not have as their aim to bring about change, the memoir and sketches provide a coherent story which aims to promote understanding and, ultimately, stimulate change. Below, three battles are compared as they are described in Draycot’s sketches and memoir.
Three Battles: Ypres, Somme and Vimy Ridge - Sketches and Memoir
Draycot's Sketch Book - click image to enalrgeDraycot’s sketches were made in small field sketch books. The title page from his sole surviving book is shown to the right. The handwriting is that of an older man, suggesting that he edited his work later in life. The book contains four pencil sketches. These would have been transferred to linen or paper; linen was particularly useful on the front line, as it was waterproof and durable. It also permitted a high degree of accuracy. Draycot’s sketches would have been used in conjunction with a map containing grid references and been complemented by reports from patrols. Aerial photographs would also have been used to supplement the information from the sketches. A number of aerial photographs survive and are included in the Draycot collection at the North Vancouver Museum & Archives. It is not clear how Draycot came by these.

Bird’s Eye View of Ypres, 1916 - click to enlargeAn example of an aerial photograph, entitled ‘Bird’s Eye View of Ypres, 1916’, is included to the left here. The lines show the main trenches as well as the communication trenches connecting these. The photograph is mounted in Draycot’s personal photograph album, suggesting that it had some personal value. The memoir makes little reference to aerial photographs (the only reference is to be found on p. 185, which describes an aerial reconnaissance trip in preparation for the Battle of Vimy Ridge); but it does describe in detail the circumstances under which he made his sketches. The sketches discussed here cover battles in which Draycot fought as well as sketched.

Observation - click to enlargeThe preliminary sketch to the right is in the sole surviving sketch book. The position and relative size of the main features of the landscape are clearly shown, as well as more minor details such as the number of trees in the foreground, and branches on the tree in the bottom right corner. The name ‘Ypres’ has clearly been added at a much later date, as the handwriting is that of an older man. Unfortunately, an insufficient number of sketches and charts have survived to be able to show the progression from sketch to printed chart. This is not important for the present discussion, however, as the emphasis is on what the sketches, charts and memoir can tell us about Draycot the soldier, the sketcher and the man. It should be noted that at this point Draycot claimed authorship of all surviving sketches, both hand-produced and printed. He consistently recorded his name and regimental affiliation at the time of production. He sometimes included his title too. The exact date of production was also noted on the sketch.

The image of text below – taken from the sketch of the ‘Country to North of Pozieres’ – demonstrates that Draycot was convinced that his sketches provided a more readily understandable picture of the terrain than a map or plan. As previously established in the interview with Captain Colin Stevens of the Seaforth Highlanders, a sketcher highlights the features of significance for battle and rejects all superfluous detail.

Part of the commentary to the sketch labelled ‘Country to North of Pozieres’ - 
click to enlarge. The sketch referred to can be found under 'Draycot's Military Sketches', which lies under the 'Memoir & Sketches' 
chapter


i R.F. Legge, Military Sketching and Map Reading for Non-Coms. & Men (London: Gale & Polden, 1916), 75.

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